“The real test of social media is, ‘Does it solve a real-world problem?” Berens said. “Students know that there are lots of great digital classes at USC, but there was no one-stop shop. So we built the one-stop shop.”
Led by coder Liz Krane, an undergraduate Communication major, the eight students in COMM 499 worked together to build the site in time for Spring 2012 registration.
“The main learning outcome is about collaboration and what happens when you’re crunching on a real-world deadline,” Berens said. “Our premise was that everybody would do a little bit of everything, but because we were trying to launch in time for registration, we had to blast it out. That meant they brought to the table skills they already possessed.”
Berens said the students are learning that digital tools come and go, but the critical thinking they are learning will stay with them.
“Technology doesn’t always do what you want it to do,” she said. “But if you think hard enough, you can make it do what you need. And that’s a real skill in the work place.”
That’s something that Krane and classmates Sean Carpenter, William Ford-Conway, Matthew Gray, Keith Koo, Cynthia Momdjian, Nikki Yep and Misha Yim are learning first-hand. All students are seniors with the exception of Ford-Conway, who is a sophomore.
“I don’t push students to try new technologies,” Berens said. “They drive that process themselves.”
About COMM 499: Advanced Social Media:
Students co-create the syllabus with Dr. Berens. She asks students what they want to learn and correlates those inputs with the nine desired learning outcomes specified on her syllabus. Readings are almost exclusively hypertextual. Students learn how to take notes digitally and archive their reading and notes. They immerse themselves in social media platforms such as Twitter, Facebook, YouTube and Diigo [a social bookmarking platform] to test the affordances and constraints of the platform. They write and build: activities that are largely the same conceptually.